my sister’s tree, my stump

The tree was nestled right next to our house, below my older sister’s bedroom window. It was massive in size. It contained so many limbs, they stretched in every direction and seemed to go on forever. In the summer, our tree would be full of leaves that were a brilliant, striking green. Once fall settled in, the leaves would turn vibrant shades of yellow, orange and brown. Towards the end of fall, our tree would shed its leaves and our grass would be covered with them. To me, the winter was the worst. Our tree would be bare, nothing but dull, grey limbs.

When we were kids, my sister would spend hours staring out her bedroom window. I never understood why because all you could see was that tree. I remember being outside one cold winter day. I was on the swing in our yard and I wondered if she would want to swing with me. I guess it was just a reaction to the thought, but I instinctively looked up towards her bedroom. She was sitting at the window staring out. She looked so sad and all I could think was that I had to go to her. I ran inside, up the stairs to her room and I asked her what was wrong. She smiled at me and said I wouldn’t understand. I begged her to tell me and explain. She just looked at me, with such a sad expression, and told me she didn’t want me to ever understand.  And then she pulled me close and she began to weep. I didn’t know why she was crying, but the desperation in her cries made me start crying.  I wanted, more than anything, to make her laugh. I wanted her to be happy and I wanted her to stop feeling whatever it was she was feeling, whatever it was that was making her so sad. But I had no idea what to do. I’d later think back on this day and wish I had the answers to make everything okay.

Three days later, my sister took her life. After the funeral, my parents received everyone at our home to pay their respects. I didn’t want to see or talk to anyone. I sat outside on my swing and stared at my sister’s tree. It was bare, no leaves at all. It made me feel naked and exposed. I cried. I cried for the tree, I cried for my sister and I cried for myself. I cried more than I’d ever cried before. I vaguely remember my father picking me up off the ground, my mom holding my hand and our doctor…the prick of a needle entering my arm before drifting off to total darkness.  The first time I woke, I had no idea what time it was, just that it was pitch black outside.  I didn’t have the strength to get up, so I closed my eyes and succumbed to the darkness once again. At the time, I didn’t know how long I had been asleep. I later found out that I had been in and out for two days.

I wrote this letter to you a couple of weeks after you left me.

My Big Sis,

Mom and Dad try to explain, but I still don’t understand. They try to console me, but I don’t want to feel better. I just want you back. Dad cut down your tree. There’s nothing left but a huge stump. I guess he thought cutting it down would make it easier to forget you. Am I supposed to forget? I like to sit on the stump, under your window and talk to you. I wonder if you hear me. I ask you questions and I just wish you would answer me. Maybe, one day when I’m grown up, I might be able to figure out why you left. For now, I have to go on without you, but I will always love you.

Your Little Sis


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